Info

mementos and, when dissolved in water and ingested or otherwise applied to the body, as miraculous healing agents. The image of Symeon was so popular that it was even affixed above the entrance to shops in Rome. Symeon's death was kept secret for four days for fear of a riot, until 600 soldiers arrived from Antioch. Under their protection and in the presence of seven bishops, along with Arabs on horseback and huge crowds carrying candles, Symeon's body was taken down from the pillar and brought to Antioch for burial. Although his tomb in Antioch is said to have produced many miracles, the largest centre of Symeon's cult remained his column. It became the focal point of a unique form of pilgrimage church, with four naves of equal length extending from an octagon centred on the column. The complex, which was completed about thirty years after his death, also included a hostel, a baptistery and a number of other buildings to accommodate the flow of pilgrims.

Symeon was equally renowned in literature: fifteen years prior to his death, Theodoret of Cyrrhus included a chapter on him in his History of the monks in Syria, written in Greek. At an unknown date, a monk by the name of Antonius composed a separate biography in Greek, and a Syriac Life was written before 473. In the late sixth century, Evagrius Scholasticus devoted a chapter of his Church history to Symeon and the efficaciousness of his relics, reporting on the exhumation of his head at the behest of a general who wished to take it with him on a military campaign.23 Symeon had many admirers, followers and imitators far and wide. Daniel, who later became a stylite on the outskirts of Constantinople, spent several months as his disciple, and after Symeon's death received his leather tunic.24 The knowledge about Symeon's spectacular asceticism spread at a rapid pace. In the sixth century, Gregory of Tours included a chapter on Symeon in his Glory of the confessors.25

By this time, the cult of saints was so well established that it formed part of the religious formation of children and provided ample inspiration for adults, a case in point being the deacon Vulfolaic. From earliest youth, Gregory of Tours reports, he had a great fondness for St Martin and even obtained dust from his tomb that he carried around his neck. But as his model of asceticism Vulfolaic chose Symeon, whose immobile stance on top of a pillar he imitated near Trier until a delegation of bishops chastised him: 'It is not right, what you are trying to do! Such an obscure person as you can never be compared with Symeon the Stylite of Antioch! The climate of the region makes it impossible for you to keep tormenting yourself in this way. Come down off your column,

24 Life of Daniel the Stylite 22.

25 Gregory of Tours, Glory of the confessors 26.

0 0

Post a comment